Journey to the Genocide Country
From July 20 to August 9, 1994 I traveled all over Rwanda to gather first hand information on the horror of genocide which took place there from April 7 after the April 6 mysterious plane crash that killed the former dictator of Rwanda, General Juvénal Habyarimana who was coming from Arusha, Tanzania and to find out if by any chance somebody from my family , my wife's family, my friends or their orphans might have survived this slaughter of unparalleled magnitude in the recent history of human kind.
My plane landed in Entebbe, Uganda and from there, I drove to Kigali. After I entered Rwanda I visited the orphanage of Byumba. Rwanda has a lot of orphanages and the one in Byumba seems to be in better conditions than others since the World Vision is providing food, medicine and clothes to the kids. Other orphanages are found in Rwamagana, Gahini, Ruhango, Nyamata and many other places. When I was in Nyamata I saw around 3000 orphans there but there was a shortage of staff, lack of facilities, food, running water, etc. The UNICEF estimates the number of orphans to be around 120,000. The high number of orphans can be explained by the fact that the killers sometimes could not tell which kids were Tutsi when they found them playing in the playground with Hutu kids . The children who were killed were the ones whose parents were known or found at their parents' home. All of orphans do not live in orphanages. Some of these kids are being taken care of by other children who need mothering too because they are not much older than their siblings. Others live with adults who lost their own children. The friend's house where I was staying at had 50 orphans from relatives and friends who lost their lives in this genocide.
This was my first trip to my homeland after 23 years in exile. In all these years, I had not been able to see any of my relatrives. Like many other Tutsi in the diaspora I was not allowed to go back to Rwanda because according to the former regime, the country was too poor and too small to let Rwandan refugees come back home. This anti-tutsi government was claiming that before the genocide of the Tutsi at the hands of the government's army and militias, that the population was 8.5 million. My trip inside the country convinced me otherwise. This government was built on selfishness, deceptions and lies. The country is almost half empty right now. After the killing of the Tutsi, the majority of the hutus fled the country towards Zaïre and Tanzania with the defeated government which is now holding them hostages. The defeated government forced the Hutus to flee with them and those who refused were executed by the same soldiers and militias who massacred the Tutsi. Even today, those who try to return to Rwanda, are killed by these people. By holding them hostages, these criminals hope to get amnesty and share of power from the new government which is made up of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the Republican Democratic Movement, the Social Semocratic Party and the Liberal Party. The number of these refugees is estimated at about 2 million. The population in the former French "security zone" is about a half-million. What happened to the remaining 5 million and half? All of them were not Tutsi since Tutsi consisted only of 10 percent according to the official sources. My first impression was that either the Rwandan population didn't reach six million or that the Tutsi population was three times what has been previously officially reported. By looking also at the hills and at the cities such as the capital Kigali and other large towns such as Butare, Gisenyi, Gitarama, etc. and the way people live one can see clearly that the country is underpopulated contrary to what was said by the ex-government officials and written in books and newspapers. The first question in everybody's mind then is why a government should tell lies about the size of its population. I see three reasons. First, the number of Tutsi had to be reduced to 10% to explain the government's discrimination and underrepresentation in education and jobs. Second the country's population had to be inflated to explain to the outside world its refusal for the Tutsi refugees to return to their homeland and third by claiming that the country was overpopulated some members of the government were to illegally benefit financially from international organizations, governments and financial institutions which were giving loans and aid to maintain or reduce the birth rates.
The horrors, the atrocities and casualties of the genocide are worse than what the world thinks.
The number of victims of the genocide is much higher than what has been reported in the medias. Major newspapers and human rights organizations put the figure of victims killed by the government troops, the militias and other extremist hutus at 500,000. The casualties are at least one million and half. This figure has also been recently confirmed by the UN but has not received the media attention and coverage. This high casualty is very easy to see because the majority of the Tutsi found in Kigali are those returning from the diaspora especially Burundi and Uganda. The "indigenous" Tutsi who survived by miracle can be counted on fingers. You can also tell by the number of houses destroyed.
All over the country, all Tutsi houses have been torn down after the slaughter. This pogrom within less than three months was facilitated by the fact that indeed thousands of Hutus joined the government troops and the militias Interahamwe to kill the Tutsi. These Hutus had to kill their neighbors because they had been forced to do so or because of greed. They were hoping to take the victims's properties such as houses, cattle, farms when the latter were exterminated. Some Hutus killed even their Tutsi wives and their own children who "looked like Tutsi". The forced assembly of these victims in churches or stadiums made the killing easier: The murders used bombs and hand grenades or buried these Tutsi alive in mass graves. There were roadblocks at every half a mile and both the state's radio and the President's private radio (Radio Télévision des Mille Collines) owned by the President's family, brothers-in law Elie SAGATWA, Vincent RWABUKUMBA, Protais ZIGIRANYIRAZO and the businessman Mr. Félicien KABUGA were broadcasting messages to the Hutus to exterminate in the quickest way possible all the Tutsi without any mercy or exception.
The original plan to start the killing was scheduled for 1995 because the extermination of all Tutsi including those in the diaspora and the Rwandan Patriotic Front Army was indeed possible. The Arusha Peace Accords called for a broad-based government which included members of the ousted government, the Rwandan Patriotic Front and other internal opposition parties namely the MDR (Rwandan Democratic Movement), PSD (Social Democratic Party) and PL (Liberal Party). This broad-based transitional government was supposed to be sworn at the latest December 1993. A new national army of 13,000 men was to be created from both the Rwandan Armed Forces and the Patriotic Front Army. Elections were scheduled for late 1996. If implemented the Arusha Peace Accords were indeed going to lure thousands of Tutsi refugees from the diaspora and many had actually started doing so. Many of the Rwandan Patriotic Front Army soldiers were also ready to lay down their weapons. Some hard-liners in the Habyarimana's government and in the military found the 1995 implementation of the genocide as too late and were afraid that its delay might prevent its execution. It is also believed that it is these hard-liners who shot down the plane carrying their president in order to be able to start the slaughter right away.
The planning of genocide.
The genocide was preceded with "ethnocide". This term is used by Rwandans to mean a well planned policy of the Habyarimana regime to prevent Tutsi from being able to function in the society: A total denial of human, civil and constitutional rights. The government had to make sure that Tutsi didn't receive proper education to prevent them from competing for jobs with the Hutus, questioning their secondary citizen status or fighting for their basic rights. Because of this policy, a lot of Tutsi were unable to attend high school and to go to the university. This policy made Tutsi pariahs in the society and allowed them only low social status and low paying jobs and turned girls into prostitutes to earn a living.
The "ethnic cleansing" started with the genocide of the Bagogwe. The Bagogwe, the Bahima and the Tutsi of Bugesera were "periphery" Tutsi because they lived on the borders. I was told that to ensure total elimination of the Bagogwe, the government installed electric wire fences around the territory in which these nomadic Tutsi lived to make sure that none of them would be able to escape. By killing the Tutsi in the periphery, the government had a strategy of forcing all the Tutsi to come in the center and mostly in Kigali, the capital, because it seemed to them to be safer especially because the presence of diplomats and international organizations and the medias which could denounce the massacres if they took place. The government's plan succeeded because many Tutsi, instead of seeking sanctuary abroad, came to Kigali or to other towns such as Butare. By having them concentrated in one place, the genocide would be easier and quicker. To each of 141 Rwanda's communes (counties), 150 militias who had been extensively trained in military camps were sent to make lists of the all Tutsi living there and to train other Interahamwe in the massacre.
The other way to ensure the slaughter was quick and final was to gather together the Tutsi in one area. It is the reason why churches and soccer stadiums were used by these refugees. Some of the bishops and priests conspired with the government authorities to convince these Tutsi that churches were safe areas because they had previously been considered as sacred havens. It is also the government authorities who told the Tutsi to run into the soccer stadiums because they assured them that the government soldiers would be able to protect them better from Interahamwe if they assembled in one area. All this explains why within only two months, the government army and its militia were able to kill one million and half people. It was enough to throw grenades into the crowd and within an hour kill thousands of people. For instance in Gahini, in Kibungo prefecture, the army killed 2,500 people within two hours only. Hand grenades, guns and machetes had been supplied by France, Egypt and South Africa. I was told also that thousands of small hammers to knock on the victims' heads and small axes to cut necks had been distributed by the government to the killers. These death tools had apparently been bought from China.
This fast genocide was also allowed by naïve politicians who believed that it would not take place in the territory under their control. They assured their people not to panick and convinced Hutu not to kill their Tutsi neighours. They were successful in the beginning and some Tutsi saught refugee in those areas. Ntyazo, my home commune had a Tutsi mayor, Nyanza had a PSD mayor and the whole prefecture of Butare had a Tutsi governor, Jean-Baptiste HABYARIMANA, a US graduate. The government had to send the Presidential guards and Interahamwe from other regions to do the killings. The Hutus who refused to butcher their neighbours and friends were are also massacred.
Who are these killers?
Although the killers are ex-government's militias INTERAHAMWE, the Presidential guards with their leaders, Colonel BAGOSORA, Captain Pascal SIMBIKANGWA, General Augustin BIZIMUNGU, Colonel RWAGAFIRITA, some government army troops, members of the MRND and CDR government such as Faustin MUNYAZESA, Enoch RUHIGIRA, Casimir BIZIMUNGU, Mathieu NGIRUMPATSE, Joseph NZIRORERA, Jean-Baptiste BARAYAGWIZA, Mrs. NYIRAMASUHUKO, Mrs. Agathe HABYARIMANA, the wife of the late President, others are found in all segments of the Rwandan societies. Children as young as 6 years old killed, women killed, peasants did , intellectuals did, even the clergy. The three bishops, VINCENT NSENGIYUMVA, Thaddée NSENGIYUMVA and Joseph RUZINDANA, gave to INTERAHAMWE lists of Tutsi priests, brothers and nuns to be killed and they are the ones who also told the butchers where to find their victims. The killings, for instance of Patrick GAHIZI, a Jesuit and reverend MAHAME also a Jesuit at Corpus Christi in Kigali and many other Jesuit priests as well reverend NTAGARA, reverend FURAHA, reverend NGOGA, etc. are blamed on these bishops. It is also these priests and bishops in collaboration with the government that convinced the people to seek sanctuary in churches so that Interahamwe and the government troops be able to massacre them more easily.
Some former moderate Hutu politicians also collaborated or participated in the massacre. With his money, Habyarimana had been able to destroy the opposition: the MDR, PL and PSD parties. In the former party, for instance, individuals such as Donat MUREGO, Thaddée BAGARAGAZA, Jérôme BICAMUMPAKA, Pascal NDENGEJEHO, members of the Political Bureau of MDR joined the MRND and CDR in what is known as HUTU-POWER. In the Liberal Party, Justin MUGENZI, Agnès NTAMABYARIRO and MBONAMPEKA , also members of the Executive Committee of their party who earlier had joined the Rwandan Patriotic Front in what was known as the Democratic Forces to fight the Habyarimana's regime defected also to the HUTU-POWER. These people are highly educated, trained in European or North American universities. Ferdinand NAHIMANA, who is responsable for the killings of the Tutsi of Bugesera was former dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Rwanda, Charles NYANDWI, was a mathematics professor at the university and former minisiter of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Jean Baptsite BARABWIRIZA alias RUNYINYA, was a former professor of Botany, Léon MUGESERA, responsible for the genocide of Tutsi in Kibirira, is a former professor of linguistics at the University of Rwanda at Nyakinama, Augustin BANYAGA who with Aloys UWIMANA, ambassador of the ousted government to Washington wrote letters to the President of the university where I teach to have me fired because I was writing letters denouncing the atrocities of their government is a professor of mathematics at Penn State. SINDIKUBWABO, the president of this criminal government, was professor of medicine at the National University. Those who refused to join them such as Agatha UWIRINGIYIMANA, former Prime Minister, Boniface NGURINZIRA, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. RUCOGOZA, former minister of Information, Mr. Joseph KAVARUGANDA, President of the Court of Constitutional Affairs, and many more were ofcourse executed. All prominent Hutus in the PSD party such as NGANGO, GAFARANGA, NZAMURAMBAHO, GATABAZI, ...were massacred. Other Hutus who were targets of these massacres were mostly journalists such as André KAMEYA, Editor of RWANDA RUSHYA, Vincent RWABUKWISI aka RAVI, editor of KANGUKA, SERUVUMBA, a columnist for KINYAMATEKA, journalists of LE FLAMBEAU, IMBAGA, KIBERINKA, LIBERTES D'AFRIQUE, ISIBO, etc. and members of human rights organizations such as KANYARWANDA, ASSOCIATION DES VOLONTAIRES DE LA PAIX, ASSOCIATION RWANDAISE POUR LA DEFENSE DES DROITS DE L'HOMME (ARDHO), etc.
These killings were swift and took the victims and the whole world by surprise. There are some people I had talked to on the telephone one or two days before they were killed such as Cyprien RUGAMBA, an international known poet, music composer, choreographer, chair and professor of history and former director of the National Institute of Scientific Research, Pierre-Claver KARENZI, a distinguished professor of physics and chemistry and a former Fulbright scholar at UC Berkeley, Primien NYEMAZI, a former government senior civil servant and a jurist with a private law firm, Carypophore GATERA, a human right activit, Tatien NTAGANDA, a professor and a hospital owner in Nyanza, Thomas KABEJA, a professor of French and African literatures at the National University of Rwanda and Jean MBAGUTA, a senior civil servant in the Ministry of Planification.
The problem is not how many people died but how they died. They suffered a lot before being killed. The killers used all types of torture possible on earth. The lucky few were shot with machine guns. These ones had to buy the bullets used to kill them. One bullet cost between 20, 000 and 100,000 Rwandan francs. Unfortunately the majority were not that fortunate. They, too, paid a lot of money to convince their killers to shoot them. The killers pocketed the money but still killed their victims by hacking them to death with their favorite death instrument, the machete. To traumatize and terrorize their victims, people were picked at random from the group in churches and stadiums and chopped in pieces in front of frigthned Tutsis who did not know when their turn would be. These victims were first starved and dying of thirst. There are some whose legs and arms were chopped and left bleeding. In many places like in Butare, Nyanza and countless other areas, people were buried alive. Pregnant women were sliced into pieces, the babies taken out of womb, slaughtered and then it would be the mothers' turn. When I went to Mayaga, my home region, I met many refugees coming back from Bugesera. When some of them recognized me, they started crying because they thought that being away in the States I was unaware of the fate of my parents and relatives who were tortured before being killed. I was informed by these people that it was indeed members of my family who were the first to be slaughtered in this region. The government officials were telling people that I was number one enemy of the regime and that I was supposed to be the next president. Rewards of 20,000 Rwandan francs were given to any individual who killed any person related to me . I was told that hunting dogs were used to find my family members wherever they were hiding. They were starved for many days before they were chopped to death with machetes. I was able to count 475 relatives victims of this genocide and 700 from my wife's side. My father, Dionizi MUTERAHEJURU, my uncle Innocent NYIRINKINDI and my father-in-law Siridiyo KABERA died a slow painful death of four days: they were crucified , had their eyes removed, their arms chopped, their legs cut, etc. just to make them suffer before dying. Rosalie GICANDA, the former queen of Rwanda with her mother were also crucified and killed naked in the flea marked of Butare before a horrified crowd. Many victims experienced the same fate.
Although I arrived in Rwanda when the genocide was over, no more bodies flowing in the Nyabarongo and Akanyaru River and the Lake Victoria, the Rwandan Patriotic Front in full control and the criminals out of the country, a stinking smell of dead bodies was still rampant all over the country. I even saw some skulls in the capital Kigali.
Obviously if the killers had to treat their victims this way, on can entail that indeed a deep hatred against the Tutsi had existed for centuries as major newspapers have been reporting.
This is far from the truth, however. Before 1959, Hutus and Tutsis had been living peacefully and in harmony with each other, intermarrying and mixing. It is only the government propaganda and hatred ideology which allowed this genocide to happen. I think this can occur anywhere where there is an irresponsible leadership like what happened during the Nazi regime.
The World conspiracy in the genocide.
Athough the ex-government is entirely responsible for the Tutsi genocide, the victims blame also France and the UN troops. Without the French intervention and involvement, the genocide could have been avoided and had the UN fulfilled its responsibilities a slaugher of this magnitude could have been stopped or reduced. The victims did not know that the UN presence in Kigali was useless and hopeless. They thought in the beginning, the Rwandan Patriotic Front included, that the UN blue helmets had come to ensure law and order in the country and to protect all civilians. In othe words, they had faith and trust in the UN mission and believed that nothing of this magnitude could happen while they were there. Unfortunately, not only did the blue helmets not react in the presence of the slaughters but did they decide also to pull out of the country to let the criminals do their dirty job of annihilating a whole ethnic group. Only the Government, the military and the militias knew exactly what the mandate of the UN troops was. Had these Tutsi known that the UN could not assure their safety, they could have at least done whatever they could to run away in the early beginning of the genocide.
The French government is also responsible for this genocide. Not only did the French troops fight on the side of Habyarimana's army together with Belgians and Zairians in the early beginning of the war between the Rwandan Patriotic Army and the ex-government's army, but it is also they who trained, equipped the army, created and trained the death squads and provided them with thousands of weapons. When in 1991, the Bagogwe, a nomadic Tutsi group in the nothern part of the country was massacred, the French troops were stationed in Rwanda, witnessed the slaughter but did not do anything to discourage or stop it. When the Bahima of Mutara were massacred by the government troops, did the French condemn the government? No. More weapons were provided and more murderers were recruited and trained to continue the dirty job. It was the same thing in Kibirira.
All the Rwandan people are convinced, that the so-called "Mission Turquoise" was really at an attempt to rescue the collapsing government since the intervention to save the Tutsi was already too late. Fortunately for the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the French troops came too late because their arrival coincided with the the RPF capture of both Kigali and the other major town of Butare in the south of the country causing a big blow and humiliation to the Paris Government.
Challenges facing the new government
Of course the new government is going to face threat from the exiled government which is presently trying to rearm and train its army on the Zaïrian soil. The new "rebels" will be able to threaten the civilians living at the border but will not have the capacity to overthrow the government. They can be dealt with easily if the international community puts pressure on the Zaïrian government to disarm these criminals and to prevent them from organizing themselves.
Other problems facing the new government are how to rebuild the country, to put the economy back to its feet, to avoid the cycle of violence, to heal the survivors of the genocide and to take care of the orphans. All the infrastructures have been destroyed and the intellectuals (lawyers, doctors, university professors, engineers, businessmen, ...) have been eliminated. Although an international tribunal is going to be set up for these criminals, it will be almost impossible to put all of them on trial. At least one million Hutus have participated in the genocide. I don't see how the survivors of the genocide can live side by side with the butchers of their loved ones. It is the reason why I think that the world community has to intervene to set up as quickly as possible an international tribunal so that justice is done, a true reconciliation is established in the country and to make sure that the holocaust doesn't repeat again and the rights of the minorities are also protected.
It was not the first time that genocide took place in Rwanda. Only the he magnitude was different. Genocide has been cyclical in this country since 1959 when it was called "revolution" until 1973 similar to both the 1789 French Revolution and the 1922 Bolshevik Revolution. Every year, the defeated government was celebrating this barbaric slaughter of innocent civilians: babies, women, handicapped, old people, etc. for the sole crime of being born Tutsi as national holiday. The murderers didn't see anything wrong killing the Tutsi. Many were not even afraid of having their pictures taken because in the previous massacres they had been handsomely rewarded. The cycle of crimes is unavoidable when people kill with impunity. A fair trial will ensure that there will be no more the politics of hatred and that human life is valued whether it is that of Tutsi or other minorities.
The orphans of genocide should receive priority of the international humanitarian organizations to deal with their material, educational and emotional welfare. At the Byumba orphanage, I met two men who called themselves also " grown-up orphans". These two men were the only survivors in their respective families. One man was able to pull himself from the mass grave in which hundreds of other Tutsi had been buried alive. The other one also crawled away from a pile of dead bodies three days later after the killers "Interahamwe" had left after tossing hand grenades on them.
There is a shortage of staff to care for these orphans. This type of care was performed by priests, brothers, and nuns. The majority of them have unfortunately been slaughtered. It is also important to note that there are no more old people among the Tutsi.
The other group of people who survived happens to be widows. This phenomenon is also due to the fact that in the early beginning of the massacres men were killed first and this gave an opportunity to few wives to hide. In the meantime, what the world community has to do to come to the rescue of this country, is to help these orphans of genocide, widows and the wounded survivors to heal their physical and emotional scars. Athough many humanitarian organizations such as the International Red Cross, OXFAM, CARE, etc. are helping right now, my choice is the Rwandan Refugees Association, P.O. Box 19434,
Sacramento, CA 95822.(1) The world has now focused on the the plight of Rwandan refugees in Zaïre and has forgotten about the victims of genocide inside the country forgetting that thousands of these refugees are murderers. All the money which is raised by this organization is sent in Rwanda to help the orphans and survivors of genocide. No percentage is retained to pay for the staff, expenditures, rent or telephones.
Professor of Linguistics and Ethnic Studies
California State University
Sacramento, CA 95819.
(1) The organization has changed its name to FORA (Friends
of Rwanda Association. You can obtain all its information
on its website : http://www.friends-of-rwanda.org